18 Sep 2014

500px Global Photo Walk 2014: Bangkok edition

For the second straight year, the photography site 500px organized their "Annual Global Photo Walk" in numerous cities around the world on the same day: Saturday, September 6th. After last year's humble but enjoyable photowalk (which you can check out here), this year things became a bit bigger: our itinerary was longer and, in the end, we gathered a group of roughly 30 walkers, tripling last year's number. Since we are in the middle of the monsoon season in Thailand, we set the meeting time at 14:00, because the downpours usually start late in the afternoon. We all met at Bang Wa BTS Station and, from there, we hop on a local mini bus to reach the beginning of our walk, 10 minutes away: Khlong Baan Luang.

Khlong Baan Luang, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Restaurant with views, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Running water, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
This is a small, traditional neighborhood that stretches out on both sides of the canal, consisting mostly of humble, wooden houses and bridges connecting both banks. Strolling along these narrow alleyways is an exercise of relax and quietness, for you will walk literally through the houses of the people who inhabit these quarters, and you will see how they perform their daily chores, unperturbed by passing people mere centimeters from their open doors. But the real landmark of the neighborhood awaits just a hundred meters ahead: Baan Silapin, the Artist's House.

The puppet I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The puppet II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The puppet III, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Baan Silapin is a beautiful example of traditional Thai architecture, all built with wood forming a 2-storeyd L shape. The house, about 200 years old, underwent a respectful renovation some years back and now is the center of the community, because it hosts an ancient pagoda in its backyard (which dates from the Ayutthaya period), as well as being a traditional Puppet theater and art gallery all at once. The ground floor accommodates the stage, which sits in the garden, next to the centuries-old pagoda, and every afternoon the Puppets are brought to life by masked artists. In the second floor you will find the gallery, where they show the paintings made by local artists.

Initiation, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Cozy seat, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The audience, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The house remains open for everybody to visit and there is no ticket required, but they can carry on with their activities thanks to the generous donations made by all visitors, so a contribution is very welcomed. People of all ages, both local and foreigners, gather in the small space provided to enjoy the show; being in such an old, historical environment spectating an almost lost tradition in the hands of new generations is a nice experience; but traditions must be updated in order to survive through the ages, and this one is no exception, for a new act has been added to the Puppet theater: a tribal dance performed by a group of young kids dressed as Africans.

The calm before the storm I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The calm before the storm II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Ready, steady..., GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Walking further down the canal you will soon reach the second landmark of the neighborhood: Wat Kamphaeng. The old capital of Siam used to be on this side of the river, called Thonburi, so it's no surprise to find, scattered around this vast area, plenty of ancient ruins and temples from that era. Wat Kamphaeng is one of them, and it is preserved in quite a good condition. It's well worth it walking around its grounds, hearing all the little bells tickling, hanging from the high eaves.

Wat Kamphaeng I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Wat Kamphaeng II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Old and new I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Old and new II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Since modern development of Bangkok mainly happened on the other side of the river, Thonburi has remained mostly undeveloped and only recently this has started to change: signs of things to come are already sprouting everywhere, from high-rise condos to the extension of the BTS line coming from downtown Bangkok. Even though the neighborhood still maintains its local, traditional flavor, and you will see plenty of small barber shops and community-focused businesses, you will also spot new concrete structures rising quickly above all roofs, pointing to a changing future that will sooner rather than later be present.

Street market, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Communion of purpose, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Colors vs. greys, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The dump, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The future coming I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The future coming II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Before long, it started raining, as we all feared, so the group dismantled and the Global Photo Walk came to an end. Last year we also had a few raindrops, but in that occasion it was just at the beginning. Maybe rain is our particular signature, so may many more showers come in the future, and see you all again next year, if not before! 

8 Sep 2014

Pirenostrum: Luthiers in the XXI century

Every other year, when July reaches its equator, my hometown abandones its usual drowsiness and, for three long days, it becomes alive and full of art and music. What normally are silent, narrow streets, touched by the rays of light roughly a few hours every day, suddenly wake up full of color, voices, steps, and music. The stone houses, centuries-old and locked all year round to keep either the summer heat or the winter frost outside its thick walls, forget they shyness during these three days and open their doors unashamedly for everyone to enter its indoor patios, and discover its secrets. As a Rafflesia flower, that blooms only for a very short period of time before dying, the old houses of Boltaña become an open museum briefly before closing their doors again for two more years.

Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Casa Velillas, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Casa Casabón, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
However, not only stones and wood are to be found inside these patios, for this is a luthiers festival, after all, and all revolves around music: traditional music that has long lived in these and other, faraway lands, preserved throughout the ages by dedicated and passionate artists and luthiers. The history of these ancient instruments built by newer hands, showed and shared openly not at a vanguardist museum or at an art gallery, but inside equally aged houses, where descendants from yesteryears still dwell, eat and play, where echoes of times long gone can still be heard in the walls and through the chimneys.

Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Violines, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Nychelharpa, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Organistrum, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Salterios, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Panderetas y cuernos, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Panderetas, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The whole village becomes an uncovered museum, doors are always open and music permeates every corner and every alleyway, every little house and every staircase; walking along the stoned-paved roads is a journey through different sounds and traditions, where it doesn't matter the origin or idiom, for all music speaks out loud the same, universal language.

Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Flautas I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Flautas II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Flautas III, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Gaitas y panderetas, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Gaitas en la ventana I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Gaitas en la ventana II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
But the beautiful instruments are only half of the equation, since there is no music without someone blowing, caressing, sliding its heart and soul to create art through sound. Luthiers, like wizards, create magic out of thin air, they make other musician's dreams become possible by crafting incredible pieces of craftwork; ultimately, they are the invisible face behind Music, and their importance is not commended enough, for a pianist wouldn't have that name without a piano, and music would have no voice without them.

Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Zanfona, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Demostración con zanfona, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Ocarinas, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Gaitas, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Exposición de panderetas, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Music as a gift, as a relic, as a task, but, most importantly, music as a legacy, as a lifestyle, as a celebration; music as a bridge between people and cultures, as a communion of disparate traditions and thoughts. Music as a party, as a dear friend, as an experience with the power to communicate the deepest feelings with the simplest of gestures, such as a soft blow of air.

Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Luthier sin instrumento, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Nueva generación, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Rondando en la calle, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Música en la calle, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
Escenario improvisado, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Pirenostrum, Boltaña
El poder de la música, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm